5G is already being rolled out and is only going to increase in the next couple of years. The global 5G rollout map now covers over 30 countries and 115 operators. The number of 5G devices supporting gigabit speeds in the market has also doubled, with both operators and ODMs committing to 5G connectivity offerings. Market research suggests that 5G will account for 1.2 billion connections by 2025, covering about one-third of the world’s population and about 30 million 5G capable connected cars.
5G is more than a new generation of wireless communication standards. This technology will lead to an era of ultra-low latency (less than 2 milliseconds) and extremely reliable (99.999%) applications tailored to user needs. All this is made possible by a combination of low, mid, and high band spectrum, coupled with high density (less than 1 km) compact antennas in dense urban scenarios to link lengths reaching up to tens of kilometers in rural scenarios. Other drivers of this standard are extreme or enhanced mobile broadband offering speeds up to 10 Gbps and massive machine-type communications capable of supporting 10 million connections per square kilometer.
The Automotive Industry in the 5G Era
5G standard provides a more reliable, flexible, and efficient direct communication design for automotive and transportation use cases. The use-cases in the Automotive segment can be categorized primarily into three areas:
- Autonomous Driving
- In-Vehicle Experience
- Smart Transportation
Autonomous driving use-cases can be latency-sensitive (e.g., collision avoidance) or can require perception/intention sharing (e.g., coordinated driving, dense platooning, etc.) 5G can also enable real-time exchange of information such as sensor data, 3D HD map updates, etc. 5G communication technology can complement onboard systems like sensors to enable advanced use-cases that require higher throughput (e.g., door open warning), lower latency (e.g., sensor sharing), higher reliability with multicast (e.g., coordinated driving), and application awareness (e.g., 3D HD map sharing).
In-vehicle experience is enhanced through faster access to the cloud that is possible through enhanced transmission speeds. In addition to personalization, voice-based multi-lingual interfaces can be enabled in the cockpit. 5G capabilities are greatly enhanced when combined with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Edge Computing, where Clouds are hosted within 5 to 25 kilometers of radio sites. Use-cases involving partial processing offload (e.g., scene understanding/classification) can be made possible with 5G’s low latency, capacity, and quality of service.
5G allows deeper coverage to connect road infrastructure for supporting use-cases of advanced safety services, including emergency vehicle prioritization, traffic light operation to maintain optimal speed, in-car traffic signals, and traffic jam warning.
The Wait for 5G in the Industrial Segment
Since the last industrial revolution, which was all about incorporating computing power and automation technologies to perform faster and repeatable manufacturing operations, connectivity technologies have been playing a pivotal role in both control and monitoring aspects of factory automation.
Traditionally both control and monitoring operations were achieved through wired connectivity protocols such as Fieldbus technologies over two-wire serial cables initially and ethernet cables later. With the advent of wireless technologies in the last few decades, there were many attempts to incorporate wireless technologies, such as Wi-Fi, WirelessHART, ISA100, Bluetooth, etc. in Industrial Automation.
While wireless was considered only for the monitoring aspects of Industrial Automation, it was essential for the connectivity technology to provide both high reliability as well as low latency in the case of control applications. The above mentioned wireless technologies were not able to provide this.
With the advent of Industry 4.0, collecting a large amount of data from disparate machineries and assets on the factory floor has become pivotal. When the number of assets and amount of data is large and heterogeneous, laying out a wired network for collecting data from factory floors is not practical, especially in the case of brownfield installations. The limitations of existing wireless technologies – in terms of reliability and latency – is a bottleneck in adopting wireless technologies in Industrial Automation, especially in enabling Industry4.0.
In this context, the arrival of 5G is a boon to the Industrial Automation segment, which can accelerate the adoption of Industry 4.0. The three major benefits of 5G are high data rate, low latency, and large network capacity and scalability. All these three are essential characteristics for the next generation industrial network for both monitoring as well as controlling applications.
Thus, in the journey of connected factories and enterprises, 5G will accelerate the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies on factory floors. Connected factories will result in digital, flexible and greener manufacturing units across the globe by optimizing manufacturing operations.
The roadmap of 5G wireless connectivity in factory floors application has to be structured carefully. The major components to create a connected manufacturing plant can be classified as follows:
- Smart Sensor Kit – To convert analog parameters into digital format
- IIoT Edge Gateway – To assimilate data from multiple sensor kits, perform required Edge Analytics, and send the assimilated data to Cloud or On-premise infrastructure
- IIoT Platform –To structurally prioritize, process, and derive insights from the collected data, and dashboarding it according to user personas
- IIoT Applications –To perform specific use cases that are needed, such as factory visibility, asset tracking, predictive maintenance, safety and security surveillance, etc.
- Field Service Applications – To optimize the productivity of field workers through digital technologies such as AR/VR, etc.
The relevance of 5G, in the above architecture, is at the initial two levels, i.e., Smart Sensor Kit (or field devices) and IIoT Gateway infrastructure. While 5G promises to perform reliably and quickly, equivalent to wired communication methods, the wireless deployment is also more cost and time effective than wired infrastructure in terms of deployment and maintenance.
In conclusion, 5G wireless communication technology has the ability to blend into our individual lives, transforming the economy and society.
By Debashis Panigrahi, Portfolio Manager-Automotive and Arunlal Sreedharan, Portfolio Manager-Industrials – Sasken
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